Day 40 - Lesson 21

Flapless approaches and landings

Posted by Owain Abraham-Williams on Saturday 12th March 2016

The weather today looks beautiful, perfect for flying. I check the METAR and am pleased to see it report very light winds, visibility of 10km of more and no cloud:

METAR EGGD 121420Z AUTO VRB03KT 9999 NCD 10/02 Q1030=

The TAF also looks wonderful, forecasting that for the rest of the day, the wind will be coming from 220° at 5kts, visibility will be 10km or more and the few clouds that are in the sky will have a base of 4,500 feet.

TAF EGGD 121101Z 1212/1312 22005KT 9999 FEW045
         BECMG 1220/1223 7000
         TEMPO 1300/1311 3000 BR
         BECMG 1309/1312 09010KT=

So, as you can imagine, I was surprised when the club phoned to say that my lesson might not go ahead. It turns out that although visibility on the ground is perfect for flying, because of haze, visibility aloft is very low. Apparently you can’t even see Bristol City from the airport, which is only about 5 miles away.

Fortunately, my lesson wasn’t scheduled until late afternoon, by which time the haze had cleared up enough for circuits. It wouldn’t have been good enough for navigation, so I was glad the wind was light with no crosswind.

Derek is away this weekend, so today I’m flying with Phil in Tango Lima. We have a chat in one of the briefing rooms and go over what I have learnt so far. Phil suggests that today we fly flapless approaches and landings. He explains that with no flap the stall speed will be higher so we need to fly faster on the approach, 80kts instead of 70kts as it would be with full flaps. He also gives me another check list he finds useful (and amusing); he calls them the CRAP checks!

  • Carburettor - off
  • Runway - clear
  • Approach - looking good
  • Permission - given to land

As I’m taxing I see an easyJet plane taking off. The tower give me permission to enter the runway and backtrack. I read back the instruction but say I don’t need to backtrack. However, the controller says if I line up at the intersection I’ll have to wait 3 minutes before I can take off, if I backtrack I will only have to wait 2 minutes, so I agree to backtrack.

Phil explains this is to do with the wake turbulence created by the larger aeroplane taking off. It will have used most of the runway before being fast enough to fly, so the wake turbulence would have started a long way down the runway. If I wanted to take off from the intersection, I would lift off at a similar point. Therefore, I would need to wait 3 minutes for their wake turbulence to dissipate. If I backtracked to the start of the runway, then I’d be fast enough to fly much earlier than the other plane, thus able to climb above their wake turbulence. Hence I’d only have to wait 2 minutes before starting my take off role.

For my first circuit Phil asks me to do a normal, full flap landing. The wind was calm so my approach was fine and I touched down well; so much easier than the crosswind landings I’d struggled with two weeks ago.

On the second circuit I use partial flaps, going to just the second stage, not third. I’d done this on some of the crosswind landings, so nothing much new here. However, not deploying the third stage meant I forgot to turn the carburettor heat off. Phil says this is the value of the CRAP checks, I have a check list as my prompt to turn the carburettor heat off rather than using the third stag of flaps as a prompt.

Then, on the third circuit I do a flapless landing. I’ve become so used to putting the first stage of flaps down when flying the base leg that it feels quite peculiar to still have the wings in their clean configuration when approaching to land. I turn onto final, flying at 80kts, and this time remember the CRAP checks. The first check, C for turning the carburettor off, yields the first problem, I forgot to turn the carburettor on when beginning my descent. My landing is a greaser though; I chuckle with delight after the struggles I had landing with a crosswind.

We do another flapless approach and again I’m pleased with my landing. As we climb back up to circuit height Phil takes the controls and talks me through a couple of areas he thinks I can improve on. Firstly, I’m forgetting Pitch in my BUMPFFICHH checks. Secondly, I’m reducing the throttle to idle too early when landing, this is making me pitch down to maintain speed, something Phil refers to as a “dirty dive to the ground”. I should use height above the runway as my reference point for reducing the throttle, rather than position over the threshold.

Phil gives the controls back to me for the last landing and again I touch down well. As I taxi off the runway the controller asks to speak with my instructor over the radio and says:

Very neat circuits flown by Tango Lima. Almost exactly six minutes apart on the touchdown. I don’t know if it’s a good student or just good instruction.

To which Phil replies:

It’s a good student.

I chuckle out load and grin to myself. It’s been such a boost to have a good lesson with some great landings. Although I have the weather to thank for that I’m still very pleased. Phil says that in tomorrow’s lesson I can fly solo without doing any circuits with him first, I’m chuffed to bits to hear that.